Balance is a complex process involving the reception and integration of sensory input and the planning and execution of movement. It’s the ability to control the center of gravity over the base of support in any given sensory environment. Reflexes are automatic responses by the peripheral or central nervous system to help support postural orientation and maintain balance; they occur rapidly enough to not be under volitional control. Balance disorders might include vestibular problems and concussion management.
The first step in treatment is to determine the cause of a balance problem. Once the type of balance disorder is determined by either a physician or a physical therapist, physical therapy can be a useful treatment tool to reeducate the body and develop strategies to restore normal function. Through practice and repetition, the brain will recognize when input is abnormal and respond appropriately. With the help of a physical therapist, a home exercise program can be established, and repeated a few times a day to reprogram the brain.
A physical therapist can also help identify extrinsic risk factors for falls that can be related to balance disorders, and help to develop strategies to create a safer environment. These strategies may include how to examine your environment for loose cords or rugs, which can cause threats, and ensuring your home has adequate lighting and space. The PT may also address techniques for focusing while in crowded spaces as this situation increases likelihood of falls.